The Roman Colosseum in Rome Italy a short history

"While the Roman Colosseum stands Rome stands. When the Colosseum shall fall Rome shall fall and when Rome falls the world shall fall." Said Bede the 8th century monk from Jarrow.

The Roman Colosseum, more correctly called the Flavian Amphitheatre, was begun by the Roman Emperor Vespasian in AD 70, as a distraction for the Roman Populace. It was dedicated in by his son Titus 80 AD though not completed till the reign of Domitian (AD 81-96). It was built on the site of a lake in the Emperor Nero's palace garden.

The building is elliptical, almost oval and covers an area of about 6 acres. Its sole purpose was to hold Gladiatorial games to keep the Roman masses entertained. Free rations of bread given here would keep them fed. In doing this the rulers hoped they would not rise up or conspire against the Imperial government.

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Games in The Roman Colosseum

The object of the games was to display power and prestige. Also to increased an emperor's popularity, especially after first coming to office. Emperor Titus marked its dedication with one hundred days of games during which over 9000 wild animals were killed. The games included; combat between gladiators, battles between men, battles between men and wild animals and other "public entertainment". There are even records of it being purposely flooded so as stage mock naval battles. One can only wonder at the ingenuity required for this and be utterly fascinated.

A salute from a centurian passing by the Roman Colosseum .. ok ok ok ... he is using a mobile phone but it looks like a salute :)

Nero and the Colosseum

Built on the site of an artificial lake that was part of Nero's huge park, which included the Domus Aurea (Golden House) and the Colossus statue of Nero. Appropriately, this statue is said to be how the name of the stadium came about.


There are four levels inside. The first three are in the three classical styles of architecture: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. The top level was particular in that it had square, window like openings to the outside. The whole building was constructed out of stone, concrete, brick (on the parts that could not be seen) and marble, Most of the marble (including the seating) was pilfered from the building in the middle ages. Some stone to was taken, it was used for the construction of St peter and other prominent buildings.

Seating and Shelter

The Colosseum had over 80 entrances and could seat over 50,000 people. In bright sun the spectators could, by means of a series of winches and pulleys, be sheltered by canvass. This technology was according to records, operated by sailors.

The Emperor sat in a podium, to the south west. Where anyone sat in the arena was according to their status and rank. Vestal Virgins and senators were on the Lower seats, while the masses were higher up.

A picture of the inside of the colloseum where the lions were once kept.

The Arena

The arena, some 86 yards long and 50 yards wide, was wooden and covered in sand. All that can be seen today are the subterranean passages where prisoners, gladiators and animals were kept, immediately before their appearance in the Games. Gladiators were expected to fight to the death. Before each performance they would salute the Emperor with the famous saying:

"Caesar those who are about to die salute you!"

Atmosphereic picture inside the Colosseum in Rome

It's Time of Majesty Had Finally Come to and End

The last Gladiatorial displays were banned in AD 438 (gladiatorial fighting had been part of Roman culture since 264 BC) The last animal show was in AD 523 when the Empire had all but collapsed.
Much of the marble that made up was looted from here. It was only when the later Medieval Popes put classical buildings under their personal protection that the Colosseum was saved from total destruction.

Memorial to the Slain

There is a large cross which remembers the death of Christians during the many persecutions. The time of the Roman Empire was very trying for those who believed a christian god at the time. However, it is said that the vast majority were executed not here but, in the circus.


  • The thumbs up or down by the populace to indicate whether a gladiator should live or die is alas an invention of the silent movies.
  • In later times it was used as a fortress by one of the powerful Roman Families.

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